International Women’s Day 2021 – Choose to Challenge

With International Women’s Day coming up on 8 March, we invited our team to reflect on this year’s theme – #ChooseToChallenge.

We offered the team an opportunity to share their pledge or commitment, or even why International Women’s Day is important to them personally. We encourage you to take a few moments to reflect on what you might choose to challenge this year too.

Annabel Rees, Managing Director and CEO

Annabel holds her hand up in support of IWD 2021

I’ve been writing about International Women’s Day for quite a few years now, and as I sit and prepare to write today, I reflected on those past articles.  We have made progress, whether it’s step changes such as #metoo or a generational shift in norms and expectations, I can genuinely say the world is different than it was five years ago. But…

What is the purpose of IWD? For me, it’s shining the light on a specific area of inequality, in the hope that exposure and focus will bring about change and equality. Just like many other movements, it does not mean at the expense of the other – IWD is not at the expense of men, my hope is that men and women equally see the benefits to greater gender balance, more gender equality in the workplace, in politics and positions of power, and that this is a goal shared by all people. The theme for this year is “Choose to Challenge” – for me, I am asking my male and female friends and colleagues to collectively ‘step up’ and not settle. In my past corporate life at times I was the troublemaker, the one that asked all the questions, constantly challenged and at times didn’t let go – and many, many times I was the only one standing, even though others in the room agreed with me. 

My hope is that we, myself included, go that step further – we don’t just cringe when a client says “I really need a strong man for this role”, or let it go when a conversation assumes that an EA is a she, or that a CEO is a man. I want my son to grow up in a world where he celebrates his mum’s achievements, stands up for men and women equally, and women in greater roles of power or leadership is more normal in 10 years’ time.

Melissa Montang (a.k.a M1), Head of Marketing and Communication

Melissa Montang holds hand up in support of IWD 2021

I #choosetochallenge my own unconscious bias about inequality and call myself out when I find examples of stereotypes I’m holding and question them. I also choose to challenge my friends and colleagues to hold me to account on this (preferably with constructive kindness where possible). It’s easy enough to call out others, especially with the help of ‘cancel culture’ and social media, and there are certainly times when it’s warranted and required to speak up, but firstly I’m going to develop a better understanding of my own bias and how I can personally be more inclusive.

Sarah Jackson-Ambrose, Operations Manager

Sarah Jackson holds hand up in support of IWD 2021

As a mother to a 3-year-old daughter, I would love to see her grow up in a world of equality and inclusiveness. #Choosetochallenge #internationalwomensday

Jason Burns, Head of Talent and Employer Branding

We want you to be able to read Jason’s message, which wouldn’t have been very easy in a thumbnail size. In case it’s still a bit tricky, Jason is holding a hand written sign which says “Someone’s” with the ‘s crossed out, followed by the following words crossed out: mother, daughter, wife, sister, girlfriend, grandmother. #ChooseToChallenge

Beth Johnson, Marketing Coordinator  

Beth Johnson holds hand up in support of IWD 2021

I frequently notice unconscious gender bias within mixed-gendered group discussions. At university in particular, male group members frequently take control of a project, non-verbally establishing themselves as a leader, guiding group discussions and delegating roles from the get-go. Often, it is clearly rooted in the perception that women are not natural leaders and are less outgoing in conversations.

It can be intimidating to speak up in these situations, and I’ve noticed my female peers sometimes withdraw from discussions because of it. I’ve come to realise that there’s little correlation between being the loudest speaker and having the best ideas.

This International Women’s Day, I pledge to swiftly challenge unconscious bias by ensuring that I speak up in male-dominated conversations. Not only will I make males aware that their over-assertiveness is offensive, and unnecessary, but I will pave way for more opportunities for my female counterparts to put themselves forward in these situations and feel comfortable enough to speak up. 

Melissa Ladner (a.k.a M2), Social Media Manager

Melissa holds her hand up in support of IWD 2021I’m passionate about International Women’s Day as a platform and movement to raise awareness of and make change for the issues facing women in general. Over the last year in particular, I’ve been trying to read, listen to and hear more voices of people from under-represented groups. So, this #IWD, I commit to #ChooseToChallenge my own privilege within the feminist movement, and hope to better understand and support the voices of those who need the platform most.